Interview with 3 Michelin-star Chef Kwong Wai Keung
Under the Executive Chef – Chinese Cuisine Kwong Wai Keung his restaurant T’ang Court located in the Langham Hotel (Hong Kong) has been awarded the much coveted 3 Michelin-stars (2017), making it one of three Cantonese restaurants in the world to achieve this accomplishment. T’ang Court reflects the classic timelessness of the Tang Dynasty, he believes “Traditional Cantonese restaurants are underrated now in Hong Kong. “ A simple man who wants to take is audience to the world of modern Cantonese cooking. Besides the Michelin stars T’ang Court is also a three-time gold medal winner in Hong Kong Tourism Board’s ‘Best of the Best Culinary Awards’ in 2001, 2002 and 2003.
Q - Do you find it a challenge to constantly innovate? What influences your work?
A - Most of my cooking inspirations come from daily life. I had to design a new dish for Hong Kong Tourism Board’s “Best of the Best Culinary Awards” in 2002. One day I was attracted by a whiff of stir-fried preserved black bean, which inspired me to create a dish that people can smell its fragrance before they see it, and this is the story of my award-winning dish “Stir-fried Fresh Lobster with Spring Onions, Red Onions and Shallots”
Q - Was there anything else that you thought you wanted to do before you started cooking? Who inspired you to become a Chef?
A - Starting in the culinary world as a kitchen assistant 46 years ago, I have progressed to the top of the food chain as Executive Chef – Chinese Cuisine at The Langham, Hong Kong, from the very beginning of taking an apprenticeship at a Chinese restaurant kitchen at Central after graduation from primary school. I began just for an income, but I soon grew more accomplished and realised my love for cooking and passion for food. Cooking is my life’s work.
Q - How would you describe your style of cooking?
A - Remain true to myself and my cooking style. For example, people may think that a Fried Rice dish is simple, but to me it requires hours to perfect. I believe in upholding the highest standard of consistency and quality with each dish I am proud to serve each and every day
Q - Is there a secret for a successful restaurant?
A - Teamwork is the key of success. The team are including both kitchen and service. Our Director Operations of T’ang Court, Mr. Danny Chan, and I have been working together for almost 30 years
Q - What's been your most memorable meal?
A - My first Japanese meal at the early 70’s in Hong Kong. There were only a few Japanese restaurants in Hong Kong and they were all very expensive at that time. I was amazed by the freshness of ingredients and their cooking technique.
Q - Which talent would you most like to have that you don't possess?
A - Technology/ computer skills. I know basic techniques like checking emails, replying whatsapp messages, but it would be great if I can solve any problems on the computer.
Q - What is your favourite breakfast?
A - Yum Cha (Dim Sum), small bite-sized portions of food like Shrimp dumpling, Lotus leaf rice… etc and to pair with Chinese green tea.
Q - Is there one food that you're secretly obsessed with having at home? Do you have a favourite ingredient?
A - I like to have very simple Cantonese dishes like Braised pork ribs with bitter gourd at home. And I like to cook all kind of seafood or dried-seafood.
Q - Is there any type of ingredient or food dish that you hate?
A - I can cook any ingredient. But just one thing only that I can’t eat is “Durian”.
Q - Is there a childhood comfort food that you think about?
A - Hong Kong Street food. It recalls my memories when I was a child.
Q - Do you have a favourite dish you enjoy cooking?
A - Seafood/ Dried Seafood in Cantonese style.
Q - Which restaurant do you most enjoy eating at on your night off?
A - I will go home right after work. And I spend most of my time at home with my family during my day/night off. Sometimes I will go to Japanese restaurant for sashimi or sushi. I like the freshness of the ingredients.
Q - What is your most interesting or fun experience from your time in restaurants?
A - Seeing my guests' faces lit up when they ate my dishes. That is the most powerful encouragement to me.
Q - Any final thoughts you'd like to share e.g. new developments at the restaurant?
A - I have been creating bi-monthly specialty menus for T’ang Court which incorporate seasonal dishes, as Cantonese cooking is all about using fresh products.